Michael Gove heckled at head teachers' conference in Birmingham


Michael Gove: "If Ofsted is a cause of fear then I'm grateful for your candour, but I'm afraid we are going have to part company"

Related Stories

The education secretary faced one of the angriest receptions of his three years in office when he appeared before head teachers in Birmingham.

Michael Gove was heckled and jeered at the National Association of Head Teachers conference.

The union passed a no confidence motion in his policies, while president Bernadette Hunter said teachers and pupils had "never had it so bad".

But Mr Gove said he was striving for higher standards in schools.

The education secretary appeared taken aback by the frosty reception as he appeared for the question and answer session on Saturday.

He was told by delegates that head teachers were suffering from stress caused by his policies, by Sats tests and by the prospect of facing tough Ofsted inspections.

In response to the latter, Mr Gove said: "If you think Ofsted is causing you fear I am grateful for your candour, but we are going to have to part company."

At which point, a delegate shouted: "Are you leaving then?"

'Dissolved into tears'

Mr Gove looked visibly ruffled during the session which was repeatedly punctuated by ironic laughter and groans at his responses.

Start Quote

They're bombarded by a flood of what they see as very poorly thought through initiatives”

End Quote Russell Hobby NAHT general secretary

One head teacher, Denise Wells, from Field House Infants school in Derbyshire, said colleagues felt they were living under a culture of "bullying and fear" as they waited for Ofsted inspectors to arrive.

Another, Lesley Wells, from Burton on Trent in Staffordshire, described how one of her school governors with 20 years experience had "dissolved into tears" after a week in which her school dealt with both Sats and an Ofsted visit.

She said as a head teacher she expected to face pressure but she did not think it was right that someone who had given 20 years of voluntary service should.

Mr Gove told delegates he had been "delighted with the warmth and enthusiasm" that had greeted some of the government's education policies.

He admitted that he may have not communicated his vision of the education system well enough, but said that while he had been "chastened by criticism" in the past, there would be no change of course.

"If people find it stressful that I'm demanding higher standards," the education secretary said to audible groans from the hall, "then I'm not going to stop demanding higher standards."

At the end of the session he said: "What I have heard is repeated statements that the profession faces stress, and insufficient evidence about what can be done about it...

"What I haven't heard over the last hour is a determination to be constructive, critical yes, but not constructive."

'Forced academisation'

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, told the BBC afterwards it had been "a fairly bruising session".

"It's not because it is a hard job - the job of a head teacher should be tough - but what I think he's failed to pick up on is the short termism of the targets and the constant change, [which] means that people no longer feel that they're doing the job that they came to do, which is to teach children.

Bernadette Hunter, NAHT president: "We do not have a failing system"

"Instead, they're bombarded by a flood of what they see as very poorly thought through initiatives and I think that is where the unhappiness comes from."

Earlier, the NAHT joined the three biggest teaching unions in England and Wales in formally opposing government education policy. It is the first head teachers' union to pass a no confidence motion.

It is critical because it is head teachers who will have to implement the government's school plans.

The stance represents a stepping up of their conflict with ministers and follows on from test boycotts and industrial action.

The union is particularly critical of what it describes as "forced academisation" in which struggling schools are encouraged to convert to become state-funded independent schools instead of remaining part of their local education authority.

The Department for Education argues this is the best way forward for an underperforming school.

But heads say that academy "brokers" employed by the Department for Education (DfE) are using unsavoury methods to push primary schools into opting out of their links with local authorities.

'Damaging schools'

A DfE spokeswoman said: "Academy brokers help us to identify the best possible sponsor to turn around failing schools and ensure pupils are given every chance to fulfil their potential.

"We expect the highest levels of professional conduct from academy brokers and any allegations of misconduct are fully investigated."

The NAHT is the biggest union for head teachers, representing 85% of primary heads and 40% of secondary heads in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Stephen Twigg, Labour's shadow education secretary, said: "David Cameron and Michael Gove need to change course. They are damaging school standards by undermining teachers.

"It's no wonder given they are allowing unqualified teachers into our classrooms, teacher morale is at an all time low and 6,000 qualified teachers have left the profession on their watch."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 860.

    Teachers do work hard but they are behaving with the same arrogance as the politicians. As an educator in Higher Ed it's unquestionable that the standard of students now is below that of 20 years ago. The teaching unions are complacent. If they really do want to improve education in this country then at least be receptive to debate rather than burying your heads in the sand.

  • Comment number 859.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 858.

    Teacher's often work at home- anything up to 8 hours a day, in addition to 8-10 hours at work. When I was in academia it was common for me to set off for work at 6am, get home 8-9pm, work to 3am then the same next day and so on. Contributed to my health getting wrecked, at least that soon will be over and I'll be just another statistic

  • rate this

    Comment number 857.

    Teachers. Sigh. They've never lived in the real world. In the 70s they were full of crazy ideas for reform and when education standards plumetted we've been trying to fix it ever since - shackled by woolly-minded bleating about "two tier" systems.
    Grammar schools were academic, others were more practically based. Two tiers worked, there was no need to fix anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 856.

    To those of you convinced the last few decades have seen the increasing dumbing down of our students, perhaps you could consider the progress we have made in engineering, medicine, computing and so forth. Gove would do well to give that some thought too, or perhaps even take some advice from people able to speak from experience. Driving up standards has got nothing to do with archaic teaching.

  • rate this

    Comment number 855.

    From my experience of school, most teachers are fantastic, those in charge are the problem!

    My headteacher only cared about attendance, and not well-being of pupils. I (and others) had poor attendance due to constant bullying for being gay/ginger/boffs and being genuinely scared to go.

    Teachers did all they could to help, the headteacher didn't care about the real issue, just about attendance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 854.

    As a student currently sitting my final exams, all i can say is I'm glad i will be unaffected. There is already enough pressure at this time of year as it is and I feel sorry for those in years below me.

    My sister is currently sitting her GCSE's and we dont know yet how the exams will be for her when she sits her A levels or how the system will work. It's not easy as it is, leave it alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 853.

    Nothing wrong with the standards of teaching, but plenty wrong with the standards of education. Teachers are under so much stress with targets and inspections all they care about is meeting targets and passing inspections and understandably so. There is no time left to develop pupils into well rounded,educated young adults. Schools are exam factories and the blame lies squarely with politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 852.

    He really doesn't have a clue does he?

    But then again how could he, never having been a teacher himself?

    The quicker he's out of office the better, he's arrogant and ignorant

  • rate this

    Comment number 851.

    The problem with nearly all Gove’s policies seem to be that they are a result of his own opinion and prejudices. Not ones that are governed by facts, realism, an understanding of education and common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.

    I wish somebody would review the Academy fiasco in Cumbria - 2 in Carlisle in special measures. 1 in Barrow about to go the same way. They have all had millions spent on them and the results are worse than the predecessor schools. The former Director of Education ( mysteriously disappeared from the education scene) got a good pay off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    If his reception is anything to go by Michael Gove is clearly on the right track. Keep calm and carry on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    Gove really isn't much different from any other education secretary.
    They all try to reform the system and the system struggles to implement their policies.
    A good education secretary would be one who just lets teachers get on with it and resists the urge to reform.

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    Michael Gove's complete inability to listen the profession is shocking. He is treating teachers with utter disdain and disrespect, and he is treating his own job as an opportunity to arrogantly inflict his poorly thought-out ideas on our children. Shame on this government. Whatever happened to evidence-based policy? Or democracy, come to that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    Tories messing up the education system now as well as the health system. Lets' vote them OUT in the next General Election please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    "I like Michael Gove"
    Personable in culture review
    But simply 'wrongly committed', at best to unequal partnership, 'trains on-time, but...'

    In long-run, 'God is not mocked'; but also advisedly, "Tempt not "

    'Not enough' to be keen to 'get the most out of' the troops & NCOs'

    We see poor regard, all-party, to humanity (unemployment, low-pay) and democracy (unequal in market)

    Teachers see

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    Nearly every negative comment about the teachig profession is negatively marked. Why?

    I am no fan of goverments in general or the way they run this country, but for people to bury their heads in the sand and think all is well within the profession are doing it a great disservice.

    No one is saying all teachers are bad but as a whole the profession is in a bad place and needs new direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    I moved to work at an Academy about a year ago and I have to say it is far better. The Head has a far greater say in what we do, how we do it and also in teacher's pay - you do well you get a rise/ bonus just as you do in other professional spheres. I have no issue with that as I am confident I do a decent job and agree we carry far too much dead wood. Ofsted & the curriculum however are a joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    Everyone has an opinion on education and we all come from a particular point of view - but I can tell you as someone who has recently left the profession after finally (after 10 years) of getting fed up of being constantly told to aim higher and jump through ever more hoops - that if Gove is even being deserted by his natural allies in the profession, headmasters, then he is in trouble....

  • rate this

    Comment number 841.

    @772 you may do but as I live next to a school I can only say that if teachers here are working all holiday they are walking to school because the staff car parks are empty.

    In response - as the mum of an NQT - I can assure you that weekends and holidays are definitely spent working at home as school is shut! My daughter has been writing reports all day - and will be all day tomorrow!


Page 48 of 90


More Education & Family stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.